PROGRAM ON CORPORATIONS, LAW & DEMOCRACYphone & fax (508) 487-3151
211.5 Bradford Street
Provincetown MA 02657
co-directors: Richard L. Grossman & Ward Morehouse
29 February 1996Ralph Nader
What a country. So the Republican candidates got the press to mention corporate wealth and power and there's a bit of an opening -- if people can get beyond the diversions and trivializings and not rush to premature, irrelevant solutions.
In that vein, we trust that you will not lend your support to this Daschle-Bingaham bill, creating R corporations...for "responsible." It is so premature, so limited, so diversionary. Why shut off debate on logical aspirations, and on fundamental causation? Whats to be gained today by granting MORE INCENTIVES to corporate leaders who promise to cause less harm...before citizen anger has had a chance to focus? Before a real public ferment has bubbled up? Before a political and social movement congeals and commensurate public action -- led by people in the.ir own commundies -- begins to target the sources of corporate power?
Because of the nature of the corporate press and the tendency of "leaders" to rush in with their grand designs, we increasingly see our task at POCLAD as redefining the problems well beyond what is regarded as acceptable, deepening people's understanding, helping one another to see today's corporate assault in the context of the last two centuries of American history as well as in the context of this continent's and the Earth's history, provoking and prolonging debate and discussion, and nurturing citizen action.
We've got an immediate vehicle -- the annual Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon Law School in Eugene, March 7-10. Richard has been asked to be a keynote speaker at the Saturday night banquet; and we have organized a mini-series on corporate and legal history -- nine workshops out of their total of 80. The event couldn't be in a more appropriate region: fury directed at timber, mining, banking, computer chip making, and other giant corporations is intense in the NW, as you well know. Direct action is accelerating. People are focusing beyond administrative and regulatory agencies now regarded as barriers between the public and corporations, and aiming their ire directly at the corporations. Institutional leaders mouth pieties and lack credibility. People are thinking differently, getting more and more creative.
It's our hope that the discussions -- and the charged atmosphere -- at this gathering of 2000-3000 people will enable many to set their sights on relevant jugulars -- corporate rights and privileges. And to engage in intelligent strategic and tactical thinking and planning.
At this Eugene conference, we do not have to rant and rave about the need to be heard. This year, we are on the inside. The issues we have been raising are now squarely on the agenda of this conference on the law. People are coming to talk justice, democracy...and corporations.
We will be holding a press conference out there on Friday afternoon, March 8. See our press advisory, enclosed.
You will note that we are not talking about a few rogue corporations, or some overpaid CEOs. Or corporate welfare. Or token workers and neighbors on boards of directors.
We are encouraging people (including reporters) to focus on structural realities like personhood and managerial prerogative. Property, liability and the counterintuitive doctrines which comprise coporate law.
We are saying that it is illegitimate for corporate fictions to divide and conquer, define our labor, control our wealth, demarcate the commons, write our laws, elect our officials, poison our food, indoctrinate our children, use job blackmail and control of information and the press and money to run our local, state and federal governments.
We are not talking about good corporate citizenship, good corporate neighbors, corporate responsibility, ethical investing, corporate America (a grand contradiction in terms), the social contract between corporations and labor (the only real social contract is among the people, regarding how we choose to govern ourselves), meaningless voluntary codes of conduct like the CERES principles, corporate environmental management, equal poisoning under law.
We are not calling for mere labor law reform, or lobby reform or campaign finance reform. We are not harking back to those halcyon days of the 1970s or 1980s when labor, environmental, health and safety and consumer laws safeguarded the public interest. We are not suggesting that folks work harder to resist each chemical, each clear-cut, each mass layoff, each toxic dump, each corporate purchase of a law, or of an election...one-at-a-time.
We are advocating citizen authority over the subordinate entity which is the corporation.
You know, democracy. Self-governance.
We are demanding the repeal of judge-made doctrines. Withdrawing privileges and immunites which corporations have taken from the people. Amending state corporation codes. Rewriting corporate charters. Revoking charters. Forbidding corporations from owning corporations. Limiting corporate capitalization and property holding. Banning corporations entireiy from participating in elections, lawmaking, and education. Ending the absurdity of corporate free speech. Dismantling specific corporations.
People are asking a question to which they already know the answer: can we have a democracy when vast wealth and power are wielded by corporatons under law...when most harms which corporations inflict -- to democracy, to community, to the environment, to ideas and cultures -- are regarded as legal? When corporate fictions are awash in money but the people are poor? When industrial poisoning corporations like General Electric Corporation, and image manipulation and real estate corporations like Disney Corporabon, write the news?
So we are not about bestowing new rewards upon corporate leaders in order for them to have more incentive to do the right thing. NRDC and EDF have diverted enough attention already by their work with Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation and other regulated monopolies which we the people chartered to serve the public trust in the first place.
We don't need to fashion ourselves into an absurd category of "stakeholders." A more disempowering concept is hard to imagine. Historically and under law, corporate fictions are subordinate to our civic authority, and to civil society.
We are the sovereign people.
Ralph, we hope you will reinforce these logical goals and aspirations, and nourish the popular resistance which is emerging; that you will encourage citizen thought and action to transfer power under law from corporations to people, communities and nature.
There's genuine opportunity out there. We meet it everywhere, across race and class and region. Buchanan senses it, is trying to ride it, manipulate it. But we believe there are tens of millions who, as Carolyn Chute put it, "don't blame gays, blacks, Jews, Spanish-speaking folks, welfare mums, illegal drugs, seat belts, schools without prayers, women with shoes, abortions, environmentalists, unseen Communist forces, and so-called liberals." They understand viscerally -in large part because of your work over an entire generation -- that giant corporations, with more rights than people, with invisible, unelected leaders, are running -- and ruining -- our lives, and (nothing personal, of course) are on the brink of ruining the Earth.
People are rumbling. Organizing. Folks in Washington DC (or anywhere else) must not be allowed to undemmine this ferment by settling for nutrition-less crumbs before there's even been a struggle.
Your voice on these matters, your support loud and clear as candidate Nader, as consumer advocate Nader, as trusted Nader, would mean so much to so many.In Solidarity, Richard Grossman Ward Morehouse
PS: Enclosed find clips describing the activities of Carolyn Chute and her "2nd Maine Militia -- the wicked good militia" -- in Maine. We've been working with her and others in Maine for over a year...and with groups in other states which have sprung up over the pest two years expressly to challenge corporate privilege.